Episode 121: Public Choice Theory

Governments consist of people, and people respond to incentives. For this reason, there is no better way to understand government than through the tools of economics. Episode 121 of The Seen and the Unseen is a rerun of an old episode of The Pragati Podcast, in which Amit Varma introduces Pavan Srinath to the mindblowing insights of Public Choice Theory.

Also check out:
1. What Does It Mean to Be Libertarian? -- ep 64 of The Seen and the Unseen
2. Public Choice: A Primer -- Eomonn Butler
3. Politics Without Romance -- Amit Varma's monthly column on Public Choice for Bloomberg Quint
4. Parkinson's Law -- C Northcote Parkinson
5. The Calculus of Consent -- James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock
6. Bureaucracy and Public Economics -- William A Niskanen
7. Urban Governance in India -- ep 31 of The Seen and the Unseen
8. Restaurant Regulations in India -- ep 18 of The Seen and the Unseen
9. Of Endings and Beginnings -- Amit Varma's goodbye editorial for Pragati

Episode 119: Modi's Lost Opportunity

Despite being a Congress spokesperson, economist Salman Soz was hopeful in 2014 that the Modi government would be good for India. As the title of his new book indicates, that turned out to be quite The Great Disappointment. Soz joins Amit Varma in episode 119 of The Seen and the Unseen to elaborate on the many economic failures of the Modi government. He also tackles tough questions on the Congress party.

Also check out:
1. The Great Disappointment -- Salman Soz
2. India's Lost Decade -- Ep 116 of The Seen and the Unseen (w Puja Mehra)
3. DeMon, Morality and the Predatory Indian State -- Ep 85 of The Seen and the Unseen (w Shruti Rajagopalan)
4. The Bad and Complex Tax -- ep 74 of The Seen and the Unseen ( w Shruti Rajagopalan)
5. The Fraud of Indian Education -- ep 77 of The Seen and the Unseen (w Amit Chandra)
6. The Importance of Cities -- ep 108 of The Seen and the Unseen (w Reuben Abraham & Pritika Hingorani)
7. The State of Our Farmers -- ep 86 of The Seen and the Unseen (w Gunvant Patil)
8. Beware of the Useful Idiots -- Amit Varma
9. A Manifesto for Progress -- Amit Varma

Episode 118: Zombie Firms and Creative Destruction

The Indian economy has the seeds of a horror film, with zombies stalking the landscape. Air India is one. Jet could have been another had it been rescued. Economist Ajay Shah joins Amit Varma in episode 118 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain the importance of creative destruction, and why failing firms should be allowed to die. Also discussed: price controls and market failure.

Do check out:
1. Making Sense of Airline Troubles -- Ajay Shah
2. Lessons from the RCom Mess -- Ajay Shah
3. A Great Churning -- Ajay Shah
4. Bankruptcy Process and the Utilisation of Assets -- Ajay Shah
5. Using the Bankruptcy Code for Privatisation -- Ajay Shah
6. What Happens to Private Airlines When Air India is Privatised? -- Ajay Shah
7. The Price is Right -- Amit Varma

Episode 117: What is Libertarianism?

“In a sense there have always been but two political philosophies: liberty and power.” David Boaz. author of The Libertarian Mind, joins Amit Varma in episode 117 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain what libertarian thinking stands for, and to bust some of the misconceptions around it.

Also check out:
1. The Libertarian Mind -- David Boaz
2. The Libertarian Reader -- edited by David Boaz
3. What Does It Mean to Be Libertarian? -- ep 64 of The Seen and the Unseen (w. Amit Varma)
4. Every Act of Government Is an Act of Violence -- Amit Varma
5. The Evolution of Everything -- ep 96 of The Seen and the Unseen (w. Matt Ridley)
6. The World is Getting Better -- ep 101 of The Seen and the Unseen (w. Steven Pinker)
7. The Right to Property -- ep 26 of The Seen and the Unseen (w. Shruti Rajagopalan)
8. Public Choice, Voting and Governance -- ep 92 of The Pragati Podcast (w. Amit Varma)
9. The Kim Kardashian Liberal -- Amit Varma
10. I, Pencil -- Leonard Read

Episode 116: India's Lost Decade

In 2008, India was growing at 8.8% and was described as a miracle economy. It all went downhill in the next 10 years. Puja Mehra, author of The Lost Decade, joins Amit Varma in episode 116 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the random events, political imperatives and human dramas that collided to bring us to the brink of a crisis.

Also check out:
The Lost Decade -- Puja Mehra
DeMon, Morality and the Predatory Indian State -- ep 85 of The Seen and the Unseen
Most of Amit Varma’s writing on DeMon, collected in one Twitter thread.Narendra Modi Takes a Great Leap Backwards — Amit Varma
Demonetisation -- Ep 2 of The Seen and the Unseen
The Bad and Complex Tax -- Ep 74 of The Seen and the Unseen (on GST)
Is KitKat a Chocolate or a Biscuit? -- ep 28 of The Seen and the Unseen (on GST)
The State of Our Farmers -- ep 86 of The Seen and the Unseen (in Hindi)
Where Are the Jobs? -- ep 87 of The Seen and the Unseen

Episode 115: The Intellectual Foundations of Hindutva

The ideology of Hindutva dominates our political and cultural landscape today. How did it begin, and what is it precisely? Aakar Patel, author of the forthcoming book Our Hindu Rashtra, joins Amit Varma in episode 115 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on three important Hindutva thinkers. 

Also check out:
Hindutva – VD Savarkar
Bunch of Thoughts – MS Golwalkar
Integral Humanism – Deendayal Upadhyay
Ayodhya: The Dark Night – Dhirendra Jha and Krishna Jha
The Coffeehouse of Surat – Leo Tolstoy
Why I Write  Saadat Hasan Manto (translated by Aakar Patel)
The Story of Our Ancestors – Episode 112 of The Seen and the Unseen
The BJP’s Magic Formula – Episode 45 of The Seen and the Unseen

Episode 113: The Geopolitics of the Bangladesh War

The formation of Bangladesh was neither inevitable nor a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. Historian Srinath Raghavan joins Amit Varma in episode 113 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe the geopolitical forces that shaped those events of 1971.

Also check out:
1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh -- Srinath Raghavan
The Blood Telegram -- Gary Bass
Uncle Sam in South Asia -- episode 93 of The Seen and the Unseen, with Srinath Raghavan
Understanding the India-Pakistan Conflict - episode 111 of The Seen and the Unseen, with Srinath Raghavan
The formation of the Mujibnagar interim government
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's speech at the UN

Episode 111: The India-Pakistan Conflict

What are the hidden dynamics of the India-Pakistan conflict? What are the possible ways of resolving it? Historian and foreign policy analyst Srinath Raghavan joins Amit Varma in episode 111 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the game theory and geopolitics of this messy situation.

Also check out:
Srinath Raghavan's books on Amazon
Unlike Vajpayee & Manmohan, PM Modi thinks prudence in conflict is a self-imposed fetter -- Srinath Raghavan
Uncle Sam in South Asia -- ep 93 of The Seen and the Unseen
Strategy: A History -- Lawrence Freedman
Not War, Not Peace -- George Perkovich and Toby Dalton
Images of Terror -- Philip Jenkins
Posturing For Peace -- Vipin Narang
To Escalate or Not? This is Modi's Zugzwang Moment -- Amit Varma

Episode 110: Reporting Venezuela

Venezuela is a country blessed by nature but cursed by politics. Journalist Alexandra Ulmer joins Amit Varma in episode 110 of The Seen and the Unseen to share her insights from her years as a reporter there.

Also check out:
Alexandra Ulmer's homepage
Alexandra Ulmer for Reuters
Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela -- Raúl Gallegos
Hugo Chávez: The Definitive Biography -- Cristina Marcano & Alberto Barrera Tyszka
Comandante: Inside Hugo Chavez's Venezuela -- Rory Carroll
Hell of a Fiesta -- Enrique Krauze (non-gated version here)
How to End Venezuela’s Nightmare -- Ricardo Hausmann

Episode 108: The Importance of Cities

India is rapidly urbanizing – and the Indian state seems to be in denial about it. Reuben Abraham and Pritika Hingorani join Amit Varma in episode 108 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss what India needs to do to prepare for its urban future.

Also check out:
India’s a Land of Cities, Not Villages -- Reuben Abraham and Pritika Hingorani
How cities, not states, can solve the world's biggest problems -- Robert Muggah and Reuben Abraham
Reclaim the Sky -- Episode 11 of The Seen and the Unseen, on FSI
Why Are Our Cities So Messed Up? -- Episode 31 of The Seen and the Unseen, on Urban Governance
The Gateway to Our Cities -- Episode 21 of The Seen and the Unseen, on Slums
The World is Getting Better -- Episode 101 of The Seen and the Unseen, on Human Progress
Order Without Design -- Alain Bertaud
Triumph of the City -- Edward Glaeser
Young Rural Women in India Chase Big-City Dreams -- Ellen Barry

Episode 107: An Economics Ramble

Host Amit Varma is joined by Vivek Kaul and Kumar Anand in episode 107 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the economic landscape of the day. Subjects discussed include the interim budget, the minimum income guarantee, the jobs crisis and how good politics leads to bad economics.

Also check out:
Here Is Why the Indian Voter Is Saddled With Bad Economics -- Amit Varma
Politics = Bribery -- Amit Varma and Kumar Anand
Show us the money: Will Rahul Gandhi’s MIG-19 fly? -- Vivek Kaul
Budget or Fudget?: Read This and Decide -- Vivek Kaul
India budget: Will India buy Narendra Modi's story of hope again? -- Vivek Kaul
The Indian State Is the Greatest Enemy of the Indian Farmer -- Amit Varma
The Business of Doing Business -- Reshu Natani and Kumar Anand
DeMon, Morality and the Predatory Indian State -- ep 85 of The Seen and the Unseen
Rajesh Jain's Journey to Dhan Vapasi -- ep 94 of The Seen and the Unseen  
The State of Our Farmers -- ep 86 of The Seen and the Unseen

Episode 106: Stubborn Attachments

In his latest book, Stubborn Attachments, Tyler Cower lays out a moral vision for the future. He joins Amit Varma in episode 106 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why future lives matter as much as present ones, and why our priorities should be centered around sustainable economic growth constrained by negative rights.

Do check out: 
Stubborn Attachments by Tyler Cowen.
Marginal Revolution.
The Marginal Revolution University.
Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit.
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

Episode 105: Understanding Gandhi. Part 2: Mahatma

In the second of a two-part series, historian Ramachandra Guha joins Amit Varma in episode 105 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about Mohandas Gandhi's transformation into Mahatma Gandhi -- and how that changed the world. Among the subjects discussed: caste, misogyny and Gandhi's personal obsessions.

Also check out: Ramachandra Guha's books on Gandhi, Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World.

Episode 104: Understanding Gandhi. Part 1: Mohandas

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most fascinating characters in history: complex, misunderstood, deeply impactful. Ramachandra Guha, author of two acclaimed biographies of the man, joins Amit Varma in episode 104 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the first 45 years of Gandhi's life, before he returned to India to catalyse the Indian freedom struggle.

Do check out: Ramachandra Guha's books on Gandhi, Gandhi Before India and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World.

Episode 103: The Emergency

The Emergency of 1975 was not an aberration, but was written into the DNA of the Indian state. Historian Gyan Prakash joins Amit Varma in episode 103 of The Seen and the Unseen to shed light on why the framers of the constitution gave such draconian powers to the state -- and why we may not have become so free in 1947 after all.

Also check out:
Emergency Chronicles by Gyan Prakash, on Amazon. 
Shruti Rajagopalan on our constantly changing constitution (Aug 2015).
The Evil of Family Planning (Dec 2014) -- Amit Varma
Lessons From 1975 (Sep 2015) -- Amit Varma

Episode 102: The Paradox of Narendra Modi

Shashi Tharoor, author of The Paradoxical Prime Minister, joins Amit Varma in episode 102 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the many faces of Narendra Modi, as well as the nature of politics, the idea of India and his own journey as a politician.

Also read:
The Paradoxical Prime Minister on Amazon, as well as Shashi Tharoor's other books.
The Facts Do Not Matter -- Amit Varma
No Free Trade For Horses -- Ep 13 of The Seen and the Unseen, on the Anti-Defection Law.